Around a dozen Portland students gather to protest school resour - KPTV - FOX 12

Around a dozen Portland students gather to protest school resource officers

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PORTLAND, OR (KPTV) -

A group of roughly a dozen Portland Public Schools students gathered Tuesday afternoon to demand that the district disarm – and disband – its school resource officers.

The rally was organized by the Portland Student Action Network, which asserted on its Facebook page that armed school resource officers, or SROs, create a hostile environment and that in-school arrests lead to lasting trauma, funneling students from the classroom to the juvenile justice system.

They also argue that students of color are disproportionately targeted.

“Since they’re armed a lot of us feel less safe in the building than otherwise, so we have a list of demands including disarming them and creating an alternative plan that’s more focused on counseling and mediation and intervention,” said student Ronni Lee.

However, district leaders say SROs make very few arrests and work to resolve conflict at the lowest level, bringing in other stakeholders like parents and teachers.

“The district believes that we actually need more school resource officers, not fewer, because they are so helpful and build those relationships with students,” said PPS spokesperson Dave Northfield.

“The important part of the program is having those relationships built with young people on their turf,” added Portland Police Bureau spokesperson Sgt. Pete Simpson. “…We face a lot of critique from the community saying police need to build relationships with young people in the community. We do that by being in schools.”

Through a partnership with Portland Public Schools, the Portland Police Bureau provides eleven SROs who split their time among all of the schools in the district.

Simpson and Northfield agree that SROs serve a critical role in keeping students safe and that removing them would be a mistake.

As part of Tuesday’s rally, student protesters wrote chalk messages on the sidewalk outside the district headquarters, which were promptly washed away by custodial crews.

The small group of student moved inside for a budget listening session and planned to voice their concerns and demands before the school board at a meeting later in the evening.

Northfield said the district had no plans to remove school resource officers.

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